Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble performs at Three Links on Wednesday, Aug. 16.
As co-founder and vocalist for Stereolab, Laetitia Sadier has put out 13 studio albums and countless EPs and singles over 25 years. She also participated in several side projects, such as Monade, and released seven solo albums.
“From a baby I have always responded to music," she tells the Dallas Observer from London. "It has always been my everything, my best friend."
Few musicians have been as prolific, distinctive and consistently excellent as Sadier. And throughout her singular career and catalog, she has maintained that rarest of instruments: an unaffected, crystalline voice. She makes listeners lean in through the combination of her seductive French accent, intimate delivery and lyrics, even though they're often obtuse or in French.
Sadier's seventh solo album, Find Me Finding You, released this spring, finds her working with longtime collaborators under the moniker Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble. This album features her usual mixture of '60s French pop, Brazilian jazz and krautrock, and puts her voice front and center with beautiful results.
“I remember very clearly where I discovered I had a voice and it sounded quite pretty. I was on a beach in the south of France when I was 15. There was a very popular song at the time, and I sang it for my friends. When I finished, I realized myself I had a voice and could tell from my friends that they were realizing it, too.”
Although she has developed into a multi-instrumentalist, at that time she played nothing.
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“I’m from the punk school of thinking, that if you wanted to do something, you just go for it," she said. “There was no ethic of going to school to learn music and studying and getting a degree, and this is why I left France. You can get no recognition or feeling of value to society without academic approval, which is infinitely castrating, I tell you."
In London, Sadier found that “all you need is to want it and to act upon it." Fortunately for Sadier, she had the desire, talent and work ethic to succeed. She also credits her ex-husband, Stereolab co-founder Tim Gane, as a big influence.
“It was a very long learning curve to go from the beach, singing with my friends, to singing with a microphone in front of an audience," she said. "Tension gets in the way, and tension is the worst enemy of the voice, and with Stereolab playing so loud, 98 times out of 100 I could not hear myself sing. So it took work to improve my voice, to learn to sing without damaging it, to ignore the pressure and to relax regardless of the situation.”
When she first began writing, her voice was her only instrument.
“It used to be that I would start with text because I thought that was the earnest way, and music was in service of the text or concept," said Sadier, whose lyrics often reflect her Marxist politics. “But in Stereolab, Tim would write the chords and bass line, and the text would serve the music, which was liberating in some way. ... But I still believe it is the music that should serve the text.”
Find Me Finding You is filled with densely layered harmonies and soul-searching lyrics, mostly English but some sung in French. Sadier’s music is immediately captivating, but with repeated listening, her “text” reveals a woman working hard to make sense of life. One outstanding track, "Love Captive," sung with Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip, is a lamentation on the challenge of sustaining love. Sadier said the catalyst for the album was a little Yamaha keyboard that had been gifted to her.
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“This little keyboard had a great piano sound that I got on with so well that the vocal lines just came easily, like there was some energy that came from that thing," she said. “And then the harmonies and vocal arrangements just presented themselves organically and I would capture them."
Sadier has always brought a pointed political discourse to her songs, even before the societal upheavals that have occurred in the past year.
“But it wasn’t sane before. Obama was not sane; he was led by the same interests that put the corporate business ahead of people, with bread buttered by Goldman Sachs, only now, it is more brash," Sadier said. "For centuries the political class has been fucking poor people off.”
Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble, 9 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 16, Three Links, 2704 Elm St., $12/$14, threelinksdeepellum.com.